What Happens to My Bet if My Horse Scratches?
In regards to sports betting, there are certain things that a bettor cannot control once a bet is placed. An example of this would be a pitching change in baseball prior to a game starting. In horse racing, when a horse is acting up prior to post time, a "scratch" may occur, which means that horse will not longer be part of the race. It's a part of the sport that bettors aren't able to handicap for, and oftentimes a "scratch" of a particular horse can alter the entire complexion of the race.
What Does the Term 'Scratch' Mean?
When you hear someone using the term "scratch" in reference to horse racing, they are talking about a horse that was entered to run in a particular race but is no longer running. There are several reasons why a horse would be scratched from a race, and I will touch on them in a moment. As a bettor, if you bet on a horse that scratches prior to the race going off, you will receive your money back for that particular horse.
How Does a Scratch Effect Bettors?
From a betting perspective, it is super frustrating to put together a solid win ticket or exotic bet only to have it either voided or altered because a horse is scratched. If you bet on a horse to win and that horse gets scratched before race time, you will get your money back and live to see another race. However, there is one exception, and that comes in the form of multi-race bets like a pick four or pick six. If you have a horse on your pick four ticket that gets scratched prior to its race, that selection will then become the favorite of that particular race.
There are ways to avoid betting on horses that have the potential to get scratched. Most scratches are available in the morning on race day with updates happening throughout the day. It's vital that bettors pay close attention to those scratches, because you don't want to waste time handicapping horses that won't be running.
Sometimes scratches occur that are out of the bettor's hands. For example, a horse can act up and get rowdy approaching the gate or once they are in the gate. These last-second scratches are out of your control, and there is nothing that can be done to avoid it.
Reasons A Horse Would Get Scratched
There are plenty of reasons a horse can be scratched from a race, and they all involve either the owner and trainer or the on-track stewards. Let's start with the owner and trainer's perspective.
Sometimes a trainer will enter a horse in two or more races at the same time and then wait until closer to the day of the race to decide which one sets up better for that horse. Since the horse racing season spans several months, an owner can afford to pick their spots more carefully. Another reason why a trainer will "scratch" a horse is if the conditions of the racing surfaces are less than ideal. This could be an instance where rain made a turf course too soft for a horse to run its best. And lastly, a trainer will "scratch" a horse pre-race if they aren't happy with how the horse has trained in the build-up.
However, sometimes a scratch isn't the decision of the connections of a horse. Before each race, the on-track steward inspects each horse. And if they have any reason to believe that a horse will not be able to run his best and possibly create a dangerous situation in a race, that horse may be scratched. Also, if a steward deems a horse to not be able to fairly represent the bettors who back him, they have the power to scratch it. Sometimes scratches happen with 20 minutes to post, and sometimes they happen just minutes before the race goes off.
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